Scherzer enters exclusive Expos/Nats company
Righty joins Stoneman (two no-hitters), Martinez (perfect game), Lea and Zimmermann
What's it take to throw a no-hitter? For Bill Stoneman, it was a combination of skill, concentration and just the right amount of luck.
Stoneman's career lasted only eight years, but in that time he threw two no-hitters to become a permanent part of the Montreal Expos' record books.
There were only four such games thrown by Expos pitchers: Stoneman's two, one by Charlie Lea in 1981, and a perfect game by Dennis Martinez in 1991. The Nationals kept the team's history after moving to Washington in 2005, and they had a no-hitter thrown by Jordan Zimmermann in 2014, and now a no-no by Max Scherzer in '15.
The franchise didn't have to wait long for the first no-hitter. On April 17, 1969, the team was just three weeks into its inaugural season and was playing a series in Philadelphia. Stoneman was scheduled to pitch that Thursday, but Wednesday night's game was rained out, so he assumed that he would be bumped back to Friday.
He didn't find out otherwise until he arrived at the park on Thursday and was told he would be taking the mound. Just a few hours later, he was in the middle of history.
"It wasn't a big crowd. There were maybe 5,000 people on hand," Stoneman said. "But by the middle of the game they'd picked up on what was going on, and even though it was an away crowd, they were making some noise. They wanted to see a no-hitter."
At the time, Stoneman was in just his third year of Major League ball and was relatively inexperienced. He had just two pitches -- a four-seam fastball and a curveball -- which is rare for a starter.
"It's probably a good thing I had no clue how to react," he said. "The further along the game went, the more focused I got."
Going into the top of the ninth inning, he had allowed five walks and struck out six. The heart of the Phillies' order came up, and Stoneman struck out the first two batters. Cleanup hitter Deron Johnson grounded out to end the game and seal a 7-0 victory for the Expos and a no-hitter for Stoneman.
That would be the biggest career achievement for most pitchers, but a small group of them have duplicated that kind of dominance. Stoneman had to wait just three years to join the club.
The Expos were hosting the Mets in a late-season series at Jarry Park, the team's temporary home in Montreal while its stadium was being constructed. The stadium held just 28,000 seats, and it was near-capacity for a Monday evening doubleheader against New York.
Stoneman took the ball for Game 1, but there was no indication that greatness was about to happen. He was just 11-14 on the season, and the Mets had a double-digit lead over the Expos in the NL East standings.
In the fifth inning of the game, Stoneman walked Bill Sudakis to open the inning. The next hitter was former Expo Don Hahn, who was nicknamed "Hondo" by the Montreal fans. He hit a two-hopper right back to the pitcher's mound.
"I put the glove down, and it was like there was a spring in the glove," Stoneman said. "And Hondo was fast, so he made it to first base."
The play was scored as an error. But because errors -- even by the pitcher -- don't count as hits, the no-hitter was kept intact.
Stoneman got out of the inning and kept Mets batters from getting a hit during the rest of the 7-0 victory. He struck out nine, and this time around had a wider variety of pitches, including two fastballs, a curveball and a slider.
"Because it was a doubleheader, I remember I was still doing interviews when the second game had started," he said. "My family was there for the game, which was exciting for me."
Stoneman, Lea and Martinez are the only three pitchers to throw a no-hitter in an Expos uniform. Martinez is the most notable name of the three, having pitched in four All-Star Games and three World Series.
Those credentials may not be matched by Stoneman, but the scrawny righty got a taste of the big-time twice in his career, and he remains the standard of pitching perfection for the franchise.